PlugIns like bonderland or VreelWeightlifter offer Auto-weights similar to Maya or XSI to get a good start with the weights.
A workflow I developed for myself from experience with Messiah:Animate and an undocumented feature of the .fbx-exporter is the following (Dont know if someone else posted it here before),producing very nice and predictable results with Cinemas standard toolbox.:
-create the bone -skeleton for your character, do NOT use ClaudeBonnet or Vertexmaps on the skeleton, all bones are Smartbones WITHOUT absolut vertex. adjust Bone falloff-function, usually 1/r-10 works best for relative realistic figures )
- add support bones to the areas with difficult deformation (head,upper-body ribs, under armpits, hips, crotch), tweak the strength of the bones & supplementary bones until you achieve a half-decent deformation of the character. See lightwave and Messiah tutorials for info on support bone architectures.
-If you have not placed the bones as child of the mesh, unfix and make them child of the mesh, fix em. (I usually keep my mesh(es) in a NUll, making the bones affect the whole group this way through the null)
- export your boned mesh as .FBX (Important: no CB maps or Vertexmaps affecting the bones, if you have painted weights make sure they are gone for export by using Moccas ClaudeBonnets remove paint -hierarchy AND remove unused maps function.---If you still have invisible, non working CB tags in the file it will not work)
-re-import the mesh into c4d: FBX exporter has converted all the bone-falloffs into Claude-bonnet weights or Vertex-maps, depending on the setting in the preferences.
If you followed Motionbuilder naming standrd,delete the keyframes the Exporter has created on the reference-bone (Motion builder naming conventions).
-You can then go back to your actual character-file, replace the mesh & bones with the re-import, maybe drag the tag-list from the original mesh back to the re-import, or if wanted place the mesh in a null and (after unfixing) place the bones at the proper place.
-then you can finetune the Weights using your Claude Bonnet or vertexmaps.
-For Multi-part characters use this procedure for every single piece, I have not done this as I usually only use it for the main-body mesh,then adding the props weights by hand, but using Vertex maps and not CB should then enable you to assign the Vetex-maps to the appropriate bones.
I try not to make too many support bones, as for the precise areas like fingers, crotch etc. it is easier to hand-paint correct the weights to control deformation.
This workflow gives me a much better result then any autoweight and is a tremendous time-saver compared to hand-painting every single weight.